Try and Keep Up

This gaggle of moms are sitting at a table beside me, taking up half the coffee shop, and literally shrieking at one another as they plan some kind of children’s birthday party-festival of faith-carnival extravaganza. It sounds cool ladies, it really does, but if you are going to shout about it to everyone in here, then you might as well make us all part of the party planning team. Little Alex is going to have a great time…if you guys don’t plan to death his every move, STRICT TO ITENERARY, about making play-doh crafts and snacktime.

Also, these women all look the same. Is that not terrifying to anyone else besides me? I’m almost worried this gang of moms is going to band together and take over the world…oh wait, they already have. That was quick. When women age and hit that middle-aged number (especially if children are in the mix) many of them look indestinguishable from one another. Short and stocky, short unkempt hair (probably still damp), no make-up, corrective eyeglasses, sneakers, hoodie. The irony of this is that men in the same age bracket and circumstances look better than they ever have. The testosterone must have mellowed out at middle age for men and honed their features so that acne is finally at bay, their hair begins to salt and pepper pleasantly, and they look damn good in tweed. Middle aged women, in comparison, are hardly ever attractive to anyone. I’m not even trying to be a jerk when I say that. I mean, I’m heading towards that hurdle and I’m looking for any way possible to avoid cutting all my hair and perming it, donning floral print, and eating at Captain D’s, which is how I see middle age and later years women tackling the aging process. I don’t understand it AND I fear it. That’s an awful combo.

I want to go into aging as a classy and refined older lady. Not to say I don’t love the grandmotherly types that are so very endearing. It’s just a thing that seems very dependent one way or another on the presence of children in a woman’s life. And of course, it’s my mission in life to fight these arbitrary odd things that are “just because they are.” I don’t think I’m expressing myself well here, but maybe this is the point I’m trying to tackle…I think women are striving towards a very specific idea of beauty. Big boobs, full lips, make up, boots (apparently so, because EVERY woman I see is wearing them), dyed hair, thin body, etc. is the standard I imagine. But what I see is that women reach towards this idea of how they are supposed to look, they instead have just created an army of clones. Perhaps this is a straight girl perspective as well, but I look at guys and they all look so different and full of quirk and character flaws that make them quite the writing material fodder. And well…women just bore me. It’s all…blonde, brunette, red head. And I feel terrible in saying that! Because I’m the first one to say that we shouldn’t judge a woman by her looks. But, if women are all striving to look like one idealized version of beauty as opposed to looking like themselves, then I think this is what we get.

Transitioning from that, I’m going to share my idea of what I look like and who I am. Notice, I say MY IDEA as opposed to HOW I ACTUALLY look. There’s a fine difference there,but it’s worth noting because I exist mainly in my own head and my ideas of how I am percieved by myself and others could be totally different from what others get when they take me in. On good days, I percieve myself as a very casually dressed, simple and common-featured, young woman in her 20’s. I’m kind of one to blend into the background, but that’s a choice I’ve made in the way I dress and act. I don’t want to be approached by strangers for the most part, and I don’t want to be oggled for my body features. I do have more than average bust line, I’m in a shape that could qualify as fairly good, I wash my hair, and I wear very little coverup and mascara (that’s it). I’m usually wearing Converse, a band t-shirt, and a cardigan on my off days. When I work, I wear black on black.

Black on the outside. 
And black on the inside too.
Oops wrote a Haiku. 

Anyways…the point is, most days I’m not really trying too hard to look like anyone other than me and the comfortable, easy going person, I imagine myself to be. My daily focus is not on making my hair lay flat or finding the best way to accentuate my eyes. It’s about learning about the world I’m in, meeting someone who shows me something new, and understanding this person I see in the mirror everyday and who she is and where she is going. I think the college grad/girl next door look works for me for the most part. People do seem to frequently eyeball me, I do get shout outs on my “honey” status, and many times peole ask if they know me because my face seems familiar. Hopefully that last one isn’t indication of my clone-in-progress status. 

I’m behind on my NaNoWriMo word count and so I’m going to keep going…new topic, but semi-related. Sweet and Sour. It’s not just a popular Chinese dish, it’s real life. As Karen O says, “I’ve got a man that makes me want to kill.” It’s an obvious point, but it seems to bear repeating. People are rarely ever “good” or “bad” fully or plain and simple. The boy who has braided his fingers into my occipital lobe is alternatively a charmer and a fiend on any given day, and he tends to volley from one to another just for the fun of it. As much as it makes me grit my teeth sometimes, I think that this humanness of imperfection and unpredictability is what I like best about him (even when I hate it). 

Sure, you shouldn’t be in a relationship where the status quo is that the man is going to do whatever he feels like and the lady just has to forgive him for every time he pushes her to the back burner. But also, I’m saying, it’s not neccessarily a bad thing if he tells you something honest and it rubs your fur the wrong way. As long as he’s just not constantly stroking against the fur. Enough with the fur references. 

Sidenote story: The blog I wrote the other day on feminism gave me the gumption to tell another guy sorta-friend off for being a twit. This guy’s not bad looking…actually has a Patrick Stump type look going for him, but he only ever calls me when he wants to “snuggle.” And so I told him that he was only ever in contact with me when he wanted this snuggle time and I wasn’t interested in that being my role. He got offended and didn’t talk to me…for two days. Then he talked to me about rock climbing and told me to hit him up the next time I decided to go. The subtle lesson to take from this is stick up for yourself and people will treat you as you demand to be treated. Patrick’s double is no longer just talking to me when he wants a physical connection. He’s talking to me about other things with hopes for the physical still in the background. I think that’s progress. And in this dating age, we have to celebrate all the little victories. 

The words are very slow in coming today and I can’t seem to fully flush out an idea. You know what that means. It’s time for another vignette. 

Nostalgia: Holidon’t

If I open my mouth, it’s all going to stream out like confetti. A blast of fluttering multi-colored decorous paper bursting out won’t be pleasant. But perhaps the crack my face takes when you fill up a room is. You’ve got presence that presents itself subtly as you silent move in…and then you’re gone. I keep stuffing my face with decietful unfulfilling mish-mash, but I’m filled only with shuttering stock footage of you walking away.

That shirt is terrible. Paisly labels, really? Like something a lifelong ten-pin king would be buried in. Your hair style is so second grade. That patchy beard you’re growing is barbarous and lackadaisical. But I’m so attracted to how your lips move to get out of the way of your teeth. I’m in deep when I stare at how happily your eyes seem to dart all about their walled-in confines. You look your best when you’re not trying to not try. Put your headphones on and disappear into a lesser harsh white-light reality. 

Christmas is coming. Make it stop. Forgo holiday cheer for cheap wine and empty tissue paper packets. Santa’s on his way. He’s leaving me thin plastic and smelling salts. Can’t cure me. 

(two for the price of one today…here’s another)

Nostalgia: Communications at the Heart of the Battlefield

Getting through these glittery months is going to take all the rock salt I’ve stored in my gut and your unpredictable penchant for bizarre to keep my brain intact. Festive yule, bitches, because “Happy Holidays” is a copout they’ve managed to program me to via series of electrical shocks and wrist slaps. You’re right, dear. It is terrifying how much I trust you to let me down as gently as a body slam on a major organ can be. 

If my musical dog and pony show doesn’t inscrease…sales, maybe I can sing it over the cup I rattle as a street act. But nay, you won’t let me stoop to the gutters. Instead, you remind me how science covets my body and will give me bread, butter, AND cheese for their use and loan. Science is kinder than the public eye anyway. Too much to hope I’d shuffle off the mortal coil before going through the festivities of “Discovery Friday,” and “gift wrapping Kawanza.” 

I’m green, kelly green, and more beautiful than a decorated tree aflame. You are gray, and gore-gous, like cold stone I slap all my expectations upon before the knife falls upon them. Please, baby, keep disappointing me, while intoning in monotone, “Do a backflip.” Your brand of awkward, intelligent, maleficence, rubs my fur so very wrong that it almost starts to turn back the other way. 

 

 

Yeah. I do that sometimes. At least, the good part about exposing this experimental, vague, and quite possibly terrible poetry attempts is that I get closer to my word count goal. Woot woot! Happy Friday to all and to all a Happy Friday. Thought for the road…If a guy ever but the song “Something” on a mix tape for me, I think I’d just go ahead and melt right into the floor.

 

-Anna R. Kotopple

 

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I Cannot Brain Today

It’s true. As the Internet cats would say: I cannot brain today, I has the dumb. (Oh my glob, how much I love Internet cats) After 9.5 hours in a retail setting, (a shopping mall, no less) I am truly astonished at the functionality I am mimicking right now. I’d like to thank coffee and my co-worker’s small and agile hands for keeping me upright right now. And yes, that’s a terribly mysterious segway into my blog. I was a journalist at one point, people. I do know how to write a lead to keep you reading. (Please keep reading)

I was informed late yesterday that the woman in charge of all the cafes in my region is coming for a visit next week. She only visits once a year and so this is a big deal. Not only this, but the district manager is going to come *sometime* that week as well. And she’s probably going to have more fun tips for making my Christmas season hellacious…more than likely something even more asinine than making me color a table with a Sharpie. At least, I reflect, both of my superiors are female and are strong, driven women in a competitive corporate system. Good for them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help me be any more prepared for their critique of my management of the cafe. Even worse, I’ve been on vacation for a week and so the cafe is in a deplorable state. My assistant didn’t just drop the ball, she lost it somewhere in the good intentions and desire to be well-liked and respected by the other servers. The only saving grace here is some really bright shining stars that are these other servers. When I was pulling my hair out as a bus of 40ish high-schoolers pulled up and entered the cafe for a frappe-a-looza, my co-worker was calm and helpful. She even massaged a tight stress-filled kink out of my back after the students got their drinks and left. That’s going above and beyond folks. 

So, no matter how bad things spin this Holidon’t Season (see what I did there?) I can at least be greatful that I’ve got a support system of employees who work FOR me and WITH me to keep the coffee brewing. So, perhaps, as a customer of cafes or a shopper this season, you are wondering what you can do to ease the pain of those in retail who are haggard, underappreciated, but tirelessly working to get you in and out of the throng of glitter and wrapping paper? Even if you aren’t, here’s some tips to recieve better service and make yourself seem like a much better human than you probably are. 

1: Yes, you are going to have to stand in line. Coffee, books and toys are a popular thing during the gift-giving time and if you want to please little Sally with her favorite Shakespearian play, you are going to have to interface with humans. We don’t really enjoy it any more than you do, but the difference is, if we don’t pretend to be ecstatic about your purchase, then we may have a less firm footing on job security. The solution is to either to shop online for everything and enjoy the mixed bag of shipping costs and returns OR be patient and enjoy the weirdness that is people being people during the holidays. Grab some popcorn and watch the masses attempt their quest for the perfect feeling to convey they appreciate the other mammals in their life. It’s excellent writing material. 

2: We are exhausted, so if we make a mistake, please be forgiving. Today, I truly understood the hyperbole of being so tired that you “fall into a chair.” It was no hyperbole today. I started working before the sun woke up, and I finished when the sun was calling it quits. Lanks said it was the equivalent of being “so tired you be tripping.” (Isn’t he just swell? I cannot brain today and so I just replied “Fo Real.” Geez) Point is: a little bit of kindness to a barista that hasn’t had a lunch or bathroom break all day, and forgets you wanted whipped cream, can make everyone’s tender little emotions last a little longer. Because, honestly, I used to get really psyched about Christmas and was the girl planning the white elephant parties for the whole office. But, then retail impatience, corporate greed, and mean mean people squashed my little heart so hard that it turned straight-up Grinchly. Be the difference this Holidon’t and inspire good feelings and junk, because that’s what it’s supposed to be about right?

3: Try to remember that Santa is a metaphor. I hope I’m not shaking the foundations of anyone’s universe when I clue you in to the fact that the robust man in the center of the shopping mall is not a diety and is not an actual gift giver to small children. (Even though I enjoy the sentiment, he’s not a drug-addled bear either, Night Vale) Santa is a guy (who probably went to college) who is donning a costume to inspire our hearts to an idea that is larger and most unworthy of us. The idea behind Santa as the figurehead for Christmas, and all the other holidays that parade after him, is that it’s better to give than to recieve. It’s a harder concept than you imagine. When’s the last time you truly gave and expected absolutely nothing? Studies say that even when we hold the door for another person, we are expecting a thank-you or an acknowledgement of our goodness. If we don’t get that affirmation, then we feel slighted. My tip is to break this cycle of dependant emotions, and do something truly selfless. Love someone who (appears ) to not deserve your love and attention. Buy a gift for someone you’ll never see or talk to. True charity, without the swelled chest. It’s a hard one, and I don’t mean to say I’ve got this one down just yet. But I think if more people subscribed to being a yearround Santa when the opportunities present themself, then the world might be a kinder and sunnier place. Even as misguided and sometimes dorky I imagine my father to be, he truly gives to people who need help when he knows his help is what they need. He will pull over on the roadside and offer help to the scraggliest, scariest looking guy in town, and that’s pretty admirable.

Take these musings for what they are worth. National Novel Writing Month is in full swing, and I’m blogging every day to try and do my part to the literary world. And hey, at least I’m not gabbing about babies and my love life today, right? Right. Next entry: Dating someone 10 years before even considering marraige? Is that a thing? And what’s up with the Dutch these days?

 

-Anna R. Kotopple